The Werewolf seems to have
scared the pants off those who saw it upon its initial
release. So why is it rarely discussed at genre-film conventions
or revived on television? Viewed through "sophisticated"
contemporary eyes, it seems terribly tame. But judged
according to the criteria of mid-fifties thriller fare,
it's a full-blooded thriller with one or two novel ideas
The film is notable primarily for
its unique attempt to combine, however clumsily, horror
and sci-fi elements into one, economical drive-in scare
package. The synthesis is undoubtedly forced, and what
emerges is something decidedly offbeat. The scriptwriters
play upon the public's fascination with and fear of radioactivity.
The result is an awkward but applaudable attempt to give
a modern spin to spooky folklore. The story concerns scientists
who, ostensibly endeavoring to perfect an anti-radiation
serum, cook up a vaccine with an odd secret ingredient:
Wolf blood! Don't ask why. It's never explained. They
inoculate an unconscious accident victim who experiences
the serum's horrific effects.
Steven Ritch's earnest, angst-filled
performance as the poetically named Duncan Marsh, the
eponymous werewolf, lends great credibility to this implausible
premise. The fact that the loathsome lycanthrope is a
respected family man, and not a rebellious teen or troubled
loner, further serves to separate this from other similarly-themed
films. Ritch's makeup is fairly effective if a trifle
inconsistent from scene to scene, the streaming saliva
being a memorably gory touch.
the burly sheriff, grumpy Don Megowan turns in a sturdy
performance. Genre fans will recall Megowan for his appearance
as the land-bound gill man in The Creature Walks Among
Us, as well as the bizarrely sullen Creation of
The film's rural setting is another
enhancement. The rustic town surrounded by the northern
California forest is a refreshing change from the European
trappings of previous werewolf films. The contemporary
setting certainly allows for easier incorporation of the
film's sci-fi elements, and the cloistered isolation of
the mountain community wherein most of the action occurs
is well realized.
Director Fred F. Sears, who was
largely confined to western fare throughout his career,
was evidently inspired by material of a very different
stripe. The Werewolf moves briskly and is punctuated
with one or two notably horrific scenes. Nothing stunningly
staged or shockingly graphic, mind you. Just solid B filmmaking
delivering on the promise of its garish poster art.
Sears capped his genre-film career
with a pair of films, produced by cut-rate impresario
Sam Katzman, that are memorable for wildly varying reasons.
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is terrifically scary
at times, due in great part to Ray Harryhausen's effects
tour de force. Sadly, The Giant Claw is another
matter altogether. Though stars Jeff Morrow and Mara Corday
keep straight faces throughout, nothing can distract viewers
from the stunning ineptitude of its titular menace, maybe
the most laughable monster in screen history.
Perhaps the reason The Werewolf
is so fondly remembered by those who saw it when first released
is the very fact that it is so rarely discussed or shown.
A film recalled vividly from youth will invariably disappoint
when screened in maturity, and the lively imagery of the
actual film may indeed pale beside the colorful memories
of those who saw it as children. Yet The Werewolf,
with its implausible atom-age spin on a centuries-old legend,
holds up admirably if one views it more as a kid than as
the time came to deliver the grade B goods, discount mogul
Sam Katzman invariably turned to director Fred F. Sears.
The reliable, workmanlike Sears turned out double bill
fodder at a breakneck pace, his genre output highlighted
by the following films:
punk Tommy Cook hams unashamedly in this tepid tale of juvie
thugs laying siege to a farmhouse. The oldsters who inhabit
said shack are shocked by the teens' brazen immoralities.
The Clock 1955
Haley and his plaid-clad Comets take center stage. Peppering
the script with snatches of hep cat dialogue, Katzman and
Sears were among the first to filmically exploit the emerging
Don't Knock The
Bill Haley is back with Little Richard in tow
in this hastily produced follow-up to Rock Around The
Clock. Alan Freed is on hand to help our hero convince
the townsfolk that rock is not the devil's music.
The Night The
World Exploded 1957
Talk about a giveaway
title -- Kathryn Grant, soon to be Mrs. Bing Crosby, spends
much screen time plumbing the earth's core to determine
the source of severe seismic disturbances. The shocks in
this plodding film won't tip the Richter scale.